Monday, June 16, 2014

There is a Track Record of Breaking

Iraq's ill-supported and poorly led troops in their north collapsed when a small force moved quickly. This is not that unusual for an Iraqi army.

In 2004, about half of the newly created Iraqi security units dissolved under the joint al Qaeda-Sadrist offensives.

In 2003, during the invasion, the Iraqi regular army and ultra-loyalist Special Republican Guards uniformly collapsed. Only some of the Republican Guard units fought hard--until destroyed.

In, 1982, the Iraqi army defending Khorramshahr collapsed when the Iranians launched a counter-attack to retake it.

I'm just saying that Iraqi units are not exactly the Prussians of the Tigris and Euphrates valley.

Let me add that in the aftermath of that 1982 debacle, the Russians dispatched advisers to frontline Iraqi units to bolster their ability to fight.

So this suggestion is consistent with historical experience:

[Retired Major General Paul] Eaton was confident that Iraq could defend the country, pointing to the the Iraqi troops’ larger numbers and superior equipment. But the U.S. needs to play a role in helping to “stiffen the spine” of the Iraqi military, he said on CNN, by providing senior advisers and intelligence to Iraqi government.

And let's not forget that Assad, who is judged by many to be winning his war, faced the loss of a third of his army to desertions and defections, could not trust another third to do more than defend their bases, lost control of most of Syria to rebels, suffered enormous casualties in the fight which demoralized those who remained, and had to rely on recruiting new militias and imported fighters from Hezbollah and Iraq (for that Shia foreign legion) to regain his edge. Oh, and Russian weapons plus Iranian advisors and lots of cash were needed.

Assad did not give up. He worked the problems. And if we continue to just hope he goes, he might yet win his war and remain our enemy in charge of Syria.

Work the problem in Iraq. Stop panicking. Make our enemies worry about what we can do to them.

UPDATE: A discussion of the situation in Iraq, including a point that I should have made:

First, it is important to recognize that the ISF built by the U.S. military in 2006-2009 had only very modest military capabilities (primarily in counterinsurgency/counterterrorism/population control operations). Throughout the modern era, Arab militaries have never achieved more than middling levels of military effectiveness and on most occasions, their performances were dreadful. Iraq was no exception.

Obviously, with the threat one of terrorists and insurgents, we built a counter-insurgency ground force rather than an army capable of battling conventional armies. That's another task we should have remained in Iraq to push forward, and back in the day I discussed that many times.

Shielding Iraqi's territorial integrity from an admittedly unlikely invasion was one task I thought our military presence after 2011 would have achieved.